Hi, I’m Anya, and I’m a Junior from Jacksonville, Florida majoring in Environmental Science. This semester, I interned at the Pine Island Audubon Sanctuary with Robbie and Pamela Fearn. When I first heard in August about where my internship was going to be, I did not know what to expect. I had not done a lot of work in conservation before this semester, but I was excited to learn. When I showed up at the sanctuary in Corolla on my first day of the internship, I knew my time here would be something to look forward to.
I started off my internship by taking a tour around several acres of the property, both by truck and boat. I learned about the history of the historic hunt club, the types of species and habitats in the sanctuary, and the work that Audubon does both in Pine Island and nationally. As the semester progressed, I delved deeper into the significance of the area, both ecologically and culturally, through research at the Outer Banks History Center.
Friends and family would constantly ask me “what I did” during my internship, and my answer would always be the same- kind of a lot of everything. I have a slightly unconventional interest in the intersection between food systems and conservation, and my Pine Island internship allowed me to dig deeper into that relationship in the Currituck marshes while learning hands-on management skills. Overall, I worked with and met countless people during my days as an intern.
While working directly with Robbie, I learned how much work goes into managing a successful bird sanctuary. We spent hours doing tasks from driving around in the boat to assess marsh conditions to redecorating cottages to meeting with environmental scientists. Along the way, I learned about resilience planning in place for climate change and sea level rise, a prevalent threat to wildlife and plants in the Outer Banks. I was able to be part of the management strategies I learned in my classes and learn the compromises that must be made when working with a place as rich in tradition as the Currituck Sound. And, of course, I saw some amazing birds, sea otters, plants, and so much more wildlife.
During my internship, I also had the opportunity to accompany Frank, a local hunting guide for Pine Island and crabbing company owner. I learned about the pressures on local seafood and his experience of duck hunting on the Currituck, along with his adorable hunting dog, Sassafras. Talking to Frank, it was clear how much the locals love and respect the marsh and have a generational connection to the area.
One of the most rewarding parts of my semester was talking to sanctuary visitors and teaching them about why the Pine Island Audubon Sanctuary is such a special place. I had the opportunity to talk to several tourists on the nature trail about the history and ecology of the place. Some were first-time visitors, and many had been visiting the nature trail for years. All of the people I met showed an appreciation for the land that made me grateful to be a part of conservation efforts. Robbie and Pamela, the sanctuary’s outreach coordinator, also hosted several events throughout the fall. I was lucky enough to attend a few and even sleep in the lodge overnight for the final one. I had many conversations with attendees about positive environmental steps being taken both in Pine Island and across the country. In the end, I left each event reassured that impactful steps are being made by many people who are passionate about the planet.
I would also like to share a special thanks to Robbie, Pamela, Frank, and all the others who took the time to work with me throughout this semester. I am incredibly grateful to have experienced all that I did, which would not have been possible without many kind and generous people.